Traffic Safety Campaign Brings Us 8 Safety Tips for National Work Zone Awareness Week

In 2012, 130 workers died at road construction sites, and more than 20,000 workers are injured at highway work zones every year. To raise awareness of this problem as the highway construction season begins, April 7–11, 2014, has been designated the 15th Annual National Work Zone Awareness Week, sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, (FHWA), the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

The kick-off event will be held April 8 in Seattle, Washington, and will highlight work on the Alaska Way Viaduct Replacement Program, which includes building a 2-mile tunnel beneath downtown Seattle to replace a double-deck highway carrying State Route 99 through the city. Several states and other organizations are also holding events throughout the week to promote the observance.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), vehicles cause most worker fatalities in highway construction zones. Half of the work zone fatality cases in 2012 resulted from workers on foot being struck by vehicles, with an additional 24 percent resulting from other roadway incidents involving motorized vehicles (collisions, rollovers, etc.). Falls and contact with objects or equipment each accounted for another 10 percent of work zone fatalities.

The theme of this year’s observance is “Work Zone Speeding: A Costly Mistake,” intended to raise awareness of the hazards posed to workers and drivers alike by traveling through work zones at excessive speeds. According to the FHWA, speeding was involved in more than one-third of the fatal crashes that occurred in construction/maintenance zones in 2011.

Work zone safety essentials

The following are some tips for keeping your workers safe on highway construction projects:

  • Develop and implement a traffic control plan to direct motorists around work zones, allowing sufficient time and advance notice for merges and lane changes.
  • Use clear signage, signals, and message boards to communicate instructions to drivers traveling near work zones.
  • Provide high-visibility clothing and hard hats to flaggers, and make sure they stand in a safe, well-lighted location where they can be easily seen by motorists.
  • Whenever possible, use physical barriers to separate workers from traffic.
  • Consider using alternative traffic management systems instead of flaggers, such as portable traffic signals or remote signaling devices, particularly in hazardous conditions like inclement weather, night work, and high traffic speeds.
  • Refer to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) for standards on traffic control devices, signs, flagging garments, barricades, and other protective measures for workers in road construction zones. OSHA has incorporated the MUTCD by reference into its construction standards for signs, signals, and barricades, found at 29 CFR 1926.200-203.
  • Establish safe routes for workers traveling on foot, both within the work zone to protect them from construction vehicles and equipment, and in and out of the work zone to protect them from traffic hazards.
  • Train all workers in highway construction zones on the hazards they are exposed to and applicable safe work practices. This should include:
    • Specific training for flaggers on signaling methods;
    • Training for all workers on construction vehicle routes, visibility limits, and blind spots;
    • Training for equipment operators and signal persons on hand signals used on the worksite; and
    • Training for all workers in the ways in which shiftwork and night work may affect their performance.

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